Paul says in James 1:2: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
Being joyful in our trials is one of the hardest things to choose. I learned to choose joy and trust God each day when we discovered our daughter had severe scoliosis.
Christmas break of 2011, my kids and I took advantage of the free ice skating day with our homeschool group at the outdoor rink in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. Among the two to three story buildings sits a rink that claims to be larger than Rockefeller Center maybe by an inch. It is surrounded by fun shops, a candy store, an ice cream and coffee shop, and restaurants. In the summer, the rink doubles as a grassy area for concerts.
This particular day was a beautiful thirty-degrees, but slightly overcast to keep the rink from melting in the sun. The rink was packed as usual; we have a large group of homeschool families in our area.
The kids got their boot-like skates on. They fit like ski boots for great support. They did a few laps around the rink, stopped for a couple of photos, silly and good smile photos, and then went off to find their friends. I was able to chat with a few other moms while my kids had fun for an hour or more.
Eventually, they got pooped out, and as usual, a couple of butts to the ice reports were announced. We giggled on the drive home.
Later that day, Kali mentioned that her back was hurting. It started hurting after one of her falls to the ice on her butt. I asked how it hurt and then decided we better get her to a chiropractor to get it checked out. She did not want to go to our current chiropractor, so we found a new woman doctor who made gentler adjustments.
A couple of days later, I sat and watched Kali’s adjustment and exam. The doctor asked about the curve in her back. I knew she had a slight curve, but nothing more. The doctor recommended x-rays and called to make an appointment for us at the x-ray center at the hospital.
So off to another appointment. Technology is amazing. Long gone are the years of getting the x-ray pictures, waiting for the development, and hanging them up on the light to view them. While the x-ray technicians lined her up for the pictures, I waited in the â€œsafeâ€ area near the viewing screen. Click went the camera, and five seconds later, the photo lit up the screen. Wow, so fast, and more wow, so curved! Tears came to my eyes. How could we have missed this double curve in her back? What were we going to do? How were we going to treat this? How could I fix it? I had to fix it. Moms and dads are able to fix everything, right?
When we met again with the chiropractor, she recommended a local orthopedic place, but that would lead us down the road to surgery. We went into research mode. Google to our rescue. We found and read about as many new therapies as we could, some available locally, within a six-hour drive, or internationally.
We let Kali look as we read. We let Kali pick.
“I don’t want to have surgery,” was her cry with tears as we were piled on our bed with the laptop.
We didn’t want that either. She chose a place south of Denver that provided a flexible brace. She would have to learn about it and wear it. She was super-diligent about wearing her retainers after her braces, so we knew she would be diligent about this, also.
The call was made to the chiropractor in southern Denver. We could make a fast trip down before our January trip to Florida to get Kaliâ€™s exam, get her fitted for the brace, and understand the basics of this new way of life. Every four months, we made the long seven to eight-hour trip to Denver for the thirty to forty-five minute appointment. The chiropractor would adjust the brace, look over the progression and hold, take an x-ray every third appointment, and send us on our way.
We made the trip a couple of times as a family, but most of the time, it was a girls trip. Kali and I had a blast at the different hotels we would choose, the restaurants that got our business, and when we went shopping! Outlet malls, big shopping malls, and little boutiques in strip malls. We did it all. Window shopping was done most of the time eyeing the matching bright yellow or purple shoes, hat, and purse store; or laughing at the items in the Spencer novelty shop; or touching the gorgeous prom and formal dresses at the wedding stores. During one trip in the fall, we searched everywhere for winter boots for her. Nothing was warm enough, nice enough, or in the budget. She finally settled on a discounted pair from Macy’s.
A couple of trips were doubled up with some business trips. Kali and I worked a booth for my It Works business at a business expo north of Denver the evening after her appointment. She was used to sitting and helping at our booth, but it was not her idea of the most fun. A restaurant trip was the carrot prize for a hard night’s work.
In early April 2013, our second year of this schedule, we made it a family affair, dogs and all. Ian’s birthday celebration was a good excuse for the weekend before the Monday appointment. We hiked a nearby park and lake area in Aurora, Colorado with a friend. It was a beautiful seventy-degree day. We finished with a trip to a new dining experience. Waking up to snow the next morning put a damper on the day, but we had planned for pizza and swimming at the hotel with friends, anyway. Relaxing and visiting around the pool area was the best plan for a mini-blizzard.
Monday morning, we were up early to get a few errands and shopping in before the 11 a.m. appointment. Our plans were to grab lunch out, then drive up to the mountains to explore and show the kids the ski hills. Once we arrived for the appointment, the exam and x-rays were done and reviewed. Measurements were written with special pencil on the x-ray film with all of us watching. The result – the curve was getting extremely worse. This brace was not keeping the spine stable enough. The flexible cloth brace was going to have to be replaced with a hard brace to keep Kali’s spine from growing wider and wider.
Why were we wasting our time here? Why weren’t we referred on months ago? I was angry. I couldn’t fix it, again. We were referred to another chiropractor team, in Boise, Idaho, that specialized in scoliosis and worked directly with a team in Sidney, Australia. We went into research mode again, frantically googling and calling across the country. The team in Boise had developed a system called Chiropractic Bio Physics to help the spine move back to the correct shape. The Australian team had developed a hard brace that was custom-designed to help push the spine, rather than just holding the body straight, like many other old-fashioned ways of bracing.
We didn’t feel much like eating out or touring the mountains that day after the news, so we went back to the hotel room to do research and let the kids swim.
The whole drive home on Tuesday, we discussed our next plan of action, continued to google, and made some calls locally to see whether we could get this same help at home. Nothing was available at home; however, we could get continued care from a local chiropractor after Kali was finished in Boise. This local doctor had trained under the Boise team and could do some therapy at home. What a blessing in the midst of the stress and frustration we were facing and the decision we had to make.
Finishing our mad dash of phone calls, emails, and researching, we decided to send Kali and me to Boise for two weeks. I cleared off my schedule, made arrangements for a place to stay in Boise, set up our first appointments, made many phone calls, and then we were driving west Saturday morning. Monday at 9 a.m. was our first appointment. Eleven hours in the navy blue suburban took us through Wyoming, Montana, and the whole height of Idaho, top to almost bottom that first day. We were in Idaho Falls by suppertime, and we found a clean and safe Motel 6 that had room for us for under $50. We spent some time in front of the TV just letting our minds relax. The next morning, we drove around town and found the falls to gaze at, followed by breakfast brunch at another hotel. Only a six-hour drive to the finish on Sunday. Arriving mid-afternoon to our host couple’s home gave us plenty of time to settle, get used to their dogs and their dogs used to us, sit on the deck, breathe, and close our eyes for a time to adjust to the new way of life for a couple of weeks.
Our host couple instructed me on the nearest grocery stores, the location of the chiropractor office for the morning, and how to navigate the TV remotes. We unloaded our bikes from the bike rack to ride around the neighborhood later, and then we hopped in the suburban to shop for a week of groceries. We would almost be living at the office, so packing two-and-a-half meals each day would take some work.
Our first day at the new office was comfortable and relaxing. The team walked us through the exam, x-rays, measuring, and Kali’s first hours of therapy: traction, stretching, and exercises. Pretty rigorous for a thirteen-year-old. They started her out light and for short time periods, but those would double in a few short days. Wednesday brought us the review day: review of the treatment, review of the measurement findings, and review of the real severity of the curves. The percentage of curve was even worse than measured the week prior. The possibility of correction was long gone. More anger, more tears, more frustration. Why weren’t we sent here sooner? The doctor reminded me that this new bracing had only been on the U.S. market for six months, so we hadn’t missed any window of opportunity too late. We were right on time. But we did have a choice to make: continue with therapy without much hope of correction but still keeping the curve from progressing, or call it quits and go home. Chris made the decision when he said, “Stay and try it. You’re there, so go for it.” So Kali kept up the work.
For two to three hours every morning, she would run two or three sets through the stretches, the traction, and the exercises. Break for lunch and repeat it for two to three hours in the afternoon. We did get a few hours for lunch, so we took advantage of our proximity to the Green Belt of Boise that runs parallel to the Boise River to explore it on our bikes. We got to know it quite well. We pushed ourselves each day to go a little further, explore a different side of the river, or go the opposite way from our starting point. One unique discovery we made on this bike trail was goat heads; those fine spikey weed seeds when caught in the bike tire create a flat tire. My front tire was the first to go, thankfully only a half mile from our end point and vehicle. We walked that last bit, loaded the bikes, and drove back to the office. Kali started up with stretches. I asked where the nearest bike shop was located. A new navigation. It was so easy to get around this area. Almost like home.
Do you have a flat tire in your life today?
Kali and I kept our daily routine of appointments and long lunch bike rides.
It kept our minds off of the reality at hand. Kali would have to live with this back deformity all of her life. I could not fix it. It was getting better, but it would never be straight again… not ever. Not without surgery. And we did not want that option. I cried out to God in my walks and silently at the office and at the house while reading my Bible. I did not understand why we had to walk through this. Why couldnâ€™t it just be all right? Had I done something to cause this? All of the guilt weighed heavily on me. I realized over the year after this visit that I just had to trust. I had to leave it all to God and trust in Him. I was thankful that it wasnâ€™t worse. I had to choose to be joyful in the hard times and the good times. He would bring us through, and He was taking care of us. Trusting is completely a choice. I can choose to be negative, bitter, and angry. Or I can choose to be thankful, joyful, and enjoy each day I have because I trust in the Lord.
Currently, Kali’s back is maintaining itself and the curve is not getting worse. She continues daily exercises and does most activities that teens enjoy. She doesn’t experience much pain with it. For that we are truly thankful.
What situation are you facing this week that can be made more joy-filled?